Black Lightning’s back – for real this time, instead of suiting up to just rescue his daughters. Good thing too, because Lala’s on the warpath after his humiliation last week.
1. “As a father of daughters…”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this phrase parroted during the past two years: “as a father of daughters, I condemn the President’s comments endorsing sexual assault [but I still voted for him],” or “as a father of daughters, I’m horrified by the allegations about [insert name].” It’s a tiresome cliche by now, meant to display empathy, but suggesting you only care because it could happen to your family, who are a part of you.
Jefferson is dumbstruck when asked by LaWanda, the titular activist, why Black Lightning rescued his daughters, and not any of the other women – like her daughter – being procured at the Seahorse Motel. It was a humanizingly fallible moment of a hero being forced to consider his spur of the moment, act of saviorism, and you wondered if at that moment if his identity was about to be blown.
2. Secret identity
Jefferson is clearly rusty at keeping his identity a secret, almost blowing it again to Inspector Henderson when he reveals he knows Will was dropped onto his car. A lot of viewers have commented that Pierce’s daughters should’ve recognized their father in his outfit, so there was a nice save this week from the writers with Jennifer’s impressionistic description of his face resembling a spotlight. Still, given Black Lightning didn’t bristle with as much electricity when taking down Lala in this episode, it’s hard not to wonder if Henderson or other civilians will start catching onto his identity.
3. Part of a community
Speaking of Black Lightning’s takedown of Lala at his penthouse, I absolutely adored how he spoke to the hotel’s doorman and elevator operator. So often in superhero media, they just bark at civilians to get to safety, and don’t actually seem like a part of their community. The casual admittance that Black Lightning wanted to take the stairs to get some “exercise” – which made the ensuing fight more than a pale imitation of Daredevil – gave the sense of everyday normality to crimefighting that make monthly comic books feel fun.
4. Anissa and Chenoa
We met Anissa’s girlfriend quite explicitly in this episode, as she’s introduced in bed with her. While tame next to other networks, it was pretty strong compared to other superhero shows, and so my mind was torn over whether the scene was gratuitous or not. Still, it was as naturalistically shot as it could be without breaching broadcast rules, and the dialogue was rather sweet and funny, particularly when the two are reminded of men who hit on them in the club.
5. Tobias Whale
Let’s get into our big bad, the charismatic albino mob boss Tobias Whale. He was cartoonishly evil last week, feeding a man to his pet pirahnas, and actually harpooning Lala. His first scene in this episode was as wonderfully weird, shot mostly with Dutch angles, with the Pulp Fiction-esque use of a ball gag to punish Lala. We also got a little insight and sympathy for him, as we realized he suffers from internalized racism, which we’ll undoubtedly learn is the result of anti-albino prejudice. It’s an important bit of nuance, given the lack of positive representation for albino people in media.
Whale shows up to punish Lala one last time in the episode, declaring that is Lala was willing to murder a mother like LaWanda, then he stands for nothing. A good villain does not believe he is evil, and in time we’ll perhaps also learn that Whale deep down wants what’s best for his community, albeit in a twisted way to Pierce. Hate is sometimes borne of love, and Whale probably wants his community to be better, but the only way for him to do that is by controlling the mob. Small wonder then, that the police let him execute Lala.
– How refreshing is it to see the strain superpowers may have on a middle-aged man?
– “And they shot Dr. King in the head!”
– “Lala says hi!” was disturbing.
– “Tap dancing.”
– The presence of the biker boys means I get to recommend the wonderful documentary 12 O’Clock Boys, which was so moving.
– Gambi’s a dick.